Over the years, I have contended that tourism is an effective tool to protect our boundaries and integrate Indians living in the remote corners of our country. Be it in J&K (including Ladakh) or the North-East.
And over the years, many have argued against it. With arguments ranging from protecting the fragile environment of those places to tourists getting in the way of the armed forces and this being a poor policy to protect the nation.
However, the fact remains, that Indians living in the remote regions of India feel isolated from rest of the country and have little economic reasons to stay with us, especially when our neighbor can offer better livelihood and infrastructure.
Now a report published in Times of India shows exactly where India is losing out (something I saw as far back as 2011) and Indians are migrating to the Chinese side.
“Another factor that worried the government and spurred construction of roads was reports of local populations migrating to the Chinese side in search of better economic activities. “This was the fallout of earlier policies of not building roads out of concern that they may end up aiding Chinese forces,” said the source.”
Even though it is a good thing that the government is finally building roads to these remote areas. However, without employment opportunities, which go far beyond just working as a porter or temporary help for the armed forces or working as labor in MGNREGA need to be made available for the population in these remote regions.
This can only come about, with the help of tourism.
An industry that can not only provide employment opportunities but also help establish a bond between Indians living in the remote regions with those living in rest of the country.
After all, if the only other Indians those living in remote regions meet are those from the armed forces or officials of the government, then they only see themselves as ruled and others as rulers, not as equals engaging in conversations and commerce.
And in these remote and often, harsh and unforgiving regions, our armed forces need all the local help they can get to keep a tab on the movement of our neighbor’s armed forces and they also need their support in case of an armed conflict (don’t forget it was the shepherds in 1999, who spotted and first reported Pakistani incursion into Indian territory.)
What is needed to ensure all this is a change in the attitude of the government and the armed forces, making sure the armed forces do not impede tourist and economic development of these areas and instead encourage tourism and open up these regions to travelers from India and abroad.
So that those living in the remote regions stand a better chance of earning a good livelihood and no longer feel neglected by the government and rest of the populace.